Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quotes for Life: Story Ideas and Character Development

I collect relationship and food quotes. They are revelatory of life’s vagaries and pathways. As a writer, I use these quotes in a number of ways. One way is to sprinkle them into tweets for @RomanceRighter or @Good2Tweat. People like quotes and retweet them a lot.

There are life lessons in some of these quotes I also interweave in character development or plot points. Imagine this quote by Erica Jong being used to define who a character is at heart:
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

Is she too timid to take risks? Was she affected by failure when she last risked something? Should one take risks? In taking risks, what are the factors to consider?

I can see how these two quotes could be the basis for character development and relationship misunderstandings:
People change and forget to tell each other.  Lillian Hellman
Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you're really strangers.  Mary Tyler Moore

I think the book Gone Girl exemplifies these two quotes. For your own work, imagine a story in which the couple married very young, before either had an idea of their individual life goals and plans. As those are discovered, the gulf, that may or may not be bridged, is your plot line that also is revelatory of their personalities. Some people adapt, some submerge their own goals for harmony, others dig in and rigidly pursue their own interests. Each story would be quite different. And one story could contain two of those character developments.

Henry Winkler helped with character ideas when he said:
Assumptions are the termites of relationships. 

I can easily see a character who is suspicious of a partner, mistrustful of motives, jumping to wrong conclusions based upon those fears but little data. He might hire a private investigator who discovers her supposed lover is a child born out of wedlock with whom she is attempting to craft a relationship. In another scenario, she could see his distance as loss of love for her when in fact he is so distracted by financial problems/whistle blowing allegations/a health issue that he is out of gas for addressing her needs. In both cases, your story could be about how relationships that are healthy, fix their problems and each is stronger for the recommitment to sharing burdens.

Some of the quotes can be the basis for plotting. Take this quote:
“Man is a knot into which relationships are tied.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Imagine a story whose mother has long apron strings. She could have an approach-avoidance or passive-aggressive relationships with family and friends. What secrets does she hide about herself and others as she protects the family?

See how that works for writers? But you know what, I just plain enjoy the sentiments, too, whether they engender tears or laughter.

A common plot point can be traced to this Robert Brault quote:
Sometimes it is the person closest to us who must travel the furthest distance to be our friend. 

In your story, you can have the loyal friend, always to be counted on, who is taken for granted, ignored, and brushed off. So that loyal friend finds others who appreciate him/her more. Some crisis point causes the first principal to recognize the worth of the relationship and set about to repair it, only to be repelled. Another crisis brings the two together as they resolve misperceptions. Sometimes you move your character literally far away so that absence plays a part in the realization of loss.

Collect quotes like I do. Myriad story starters emerge either as is or combined. What would your story be for this one by Leo Buscaglia?
Don't smother each other.  No one can grow in the shade. 

 Value added? You sound smart when you start spouting quotes to everyone!


jrlindermuth said...

Good suggestions, Sharon. Quotes can indeed inspire story ideas.

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Thanks, John, for coming by to comment. Have you tried this technique, too? It really does make for some fun writing prompts with a writing group, too.

Bonnie A Kelly said...

Great idea for ideas.
Some writers seem to have hundreds of ideas for stories.
I on the other hand am one who struggles with getting thoughts together, so I appreciate your idea for ideas.
Bonnie Kelly

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Thanks, Bonnie. You are not alone. That's why I wrote this! Good for you to keep searching for your own wellspring of ideas.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Loved the quotes. Beryl

Niki said...

What an incredible idea! Now why didn't I think of that

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Thanks so much, Beryl!

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Niki, we all have so many ideas. This blog is a cornucopia of great stuff for writers.

Thonie Hevron said...

Sharon, great insights! I loved Leo Buscaglia--what a wonderful quote.

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Thanks, Thonie. Buscaglia is so quotatable, isn't he? I've collected quotes for years, maybe decades!